Sunday, August 18, 2013

San Francisco: Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences

We hit the California Academy of Sciences (CAoS) on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 1. After a morning at Alcatraz, I didn't have any business walking around, but I'm too stubborn for my own good. I really hate to let all the medical crap I've been through in the last three years get in the way.

So I explored. Slowly. If there was a bench nearby I explored it as well.

The ground floor is where most of the action is. There are a pair of enormous globes: one for the Rainforests of the World exhibit, the other for the IMAX Morrison Planetarium.

We'd come specifically to see the planetarium, billed as "the world's largest all-digital" in the CAoS brochure.

I didn't wander very far, but we had an hour to kill before the next show. I took in the Puerto Rico reef aquarium and watched the Foucalt Pendulum display:

Explored several benches. They were of good quality and reasonably comfortable, but the main bench exhibit (a small group of them, supposedly shown in their natural environment) was kind of boring.

No benches at the planetarium entrance. We only stood for maybe 15 minutes, but it was starting to seem like forever by the time the doors opened and we were ushered into...the next waiting area (a darkened room, where our eyes could adapt). My legs and back were having fits, but I just kept standing.

Another 10 minutes in this darkened room, then (FINALLY!) we were led into the main theater, a 90-foot dome. Some pretty evil stairs, and damned if my host didn't want to go alllll the freaking way to the top. Man, what a hike. I felt like I'd fall backwards if I didn't hold on to the railing. Practically fell into my seat. Sighed in several kinds of relief.

Several minutes of introduction from the staff. The theater was more brightly lit than that darkened room had been (so much for adapting to the dimmer light...). The lights went down and the show got under way.

I wish I could describe the show. It looked amazing on that 90-foot IMAX dome, as if we were floating above the building's Living Roof. We pulled back, back, back: the campus, San Francisco and its peninsula, the West Coast, the Earth--

I blinked. I'd swear that's all it was, a blink, and overhead we were zooming back toward the Earth. Credits rolled, lights came back up, and my cellphone claimed that 20 or so minutes had passed.

Seriously. I'd managed to sleep through the one thing I'd come here to see.

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